a microworld for exploring newtonian physics

TurboTurtle is an animated multi-user microworld that children use to explore concepts in Newtonian physics. It is a groupware system where students, each on their own computer, can simultaneous control physical properties (gravity, friction, etc.) of the microworld and see how the motion of a ball (the turtle) changes.

In the figure, each student sees exactly the same running simulation on their display. The turtles (the green ball) are in the same position and move at the same speed, the trails are in the same place, and the background scenery is identical. All students can work simultaneously doing anything they want at any time. For example, one student might move the turtle, while another adjusts its speed, and another alters the world's gravity. As any control is being adjusted, the new position is immediately reflected on all displays. Students see the other person's location on the screen by a teleporter, shown as the multiple cursors. Within the simulation, the turtle's trail, a line of ink that follows the turtle's movement, can be switched on or off. In this particular image, we see that the ink has reflected people's adjustment of properties such as speed, direction, gravity and friction over time.

Primary Investigators

Andy Cockburn, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Saul Greenberg, University of Calgary, Canada


  • System implemented and tested (note that the software is no longer available as we have not upgraded it to newer versions of GroupKit).
  • papers produced describing the work.

Current Status

  • Completed